The alienation of the music buying public was set into motion by the general disdain and lack of customer service coming from major labels during the last few decades. As far as the labels were concerned they bestowed the public with their heavenly products, to be bought sound unheard, and en masse. If the customer was disappointed with the product then the general reaction was: “Tough luck,” if you could even find someone to speak to, hidden high up in their ivory towers. Very slowly this contributed to getting us where we are now.
For a certain period in history, the music industry had society in the palm of it’s hand, with permission from all to interrupt their day, tell them about the world and sell them quality products. Then the industry got bloated and arrogant, and when we had a chance to win over a new generation of music buyers, we failed. With the right approach, an ear to the street, and a penchant for innovation our industry could’ve avoided the current down turn, and we’d still have been at the forefront, rather than lagging behind several other forms of entertainment in terms of relevance and excitement. When you stop listening to your constituents, you lose. (See Rome, MySpace, New Coke, GM, etc.)
A New Dawn, A New Day, A New Hope
These days, we all live in a small town and everybody is the mayor of their own virtual neighborhood. If we do wrong by someone, even just a little bit, they will spread the word in their neighborhood. Social media has empowered everyone with a voice that can be heard. They tweet, blog, they update their status, and even if they only have 25 followers on twitter, a story can spread from there. If you blow someone away and “radically overdeliver“, they will also spread the word. So if online shoe retailer Zappos goes above and beyond their call of duty, the customer in question will first tell her friends and family, and they will tell their friends, and eventually the story makes it onto the powerful The Consumerist. This one example of doing the right thing and providing a great customer service will then become a marketing event more powerful than money could buy. But it’s a double-edged sword of course. Dave Carroll’s bad experience with United Airlines, and his subsequent viral music video led to embarrassment for the airline, forcing them to apologize and admit their mistake.
Bringing Customer Service Back
There is no reason for the music industry to be exempt from dealing directly with customers, listening to what they have to say, and adapting our business models accordingly.
As brick and mortar music retailers slowly fade away, we return to the age where record labels and artists move towards the direct-to-customer model. Partially out of necessity and budgetary constraints, but also fully by choice we at Family Records find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of this revolution. We are in constant communication with our customers via e-mail, twitter and facebook, whether they buy directly from us, or from a middle man like iTunes, Target, or Amazon. We do our best to make every customer interaction positive and memorable, and something that can help spread the word on our artists. When we make a mistake, we don’t deny, we apologize and make it right. When we’re asked for help, we try to make something happen for the customer.
Some recent examples of how we try to do our little part in the customer service revolution follow. When twelve year old Wakey!Wakey! fan Garen sent us a note expressing sadness for not being able to attend a 21+ concert, and enclosed a video of him covering “Brooklyn” at an open mic, we tweeted the video out and sent him a personal message from the band. He was ecstatic and will be a fan for life. While our customers wait for their orders to arrive, our fulfillment master Andy sends them a surprise free digital mixtape, that often sparks a nice thank you note or a tweet to their friends. When someone writes on their personal blog, we send them a thank you note, which sometimes leads to a tweet from their end spreading the Family gospel. Listening to our customers is a lot of work, it’s also very satisfying and it helps us grow our customer base. When customer service is done right, it’s the best marketing you can have. When marketing is done right, it’s not a bother. It’s a service.
Below is a video from Andy Sernovitz’s blog, where Mike Faith speaks on an extraordinary moment he had on Virgin America Airlines. Andy asks his readers “When is the last time you told everyone you know about an amazing customer service experience?” I’d like to look at the other side of that equation and ask you: When was the last time you blew your customer’s mind by providing an amazing customer service experience?